The month of March was full of opportunities to encourage young children to read. Read Across America, the program that celebrates Dr. Seuss’ birthday allowed the young women of SDA to visit both All Saints Catholic Academy and P.S. # 23 to read to students in grades ranging from Pre K 3 to 3rd. I myself had the chance to do some reading to the kindergarten at All Saints, both as a chaperone for the NHS trip there and as the class parent for my daughter’s class. It was wonderful for our young ladies and the chaperones who attended to be able to experience the excitement that comes with reading a story out loud to interested, inquisitive, and yes, at times chatty, youngsters.
I am sure many of my fellow parents who read this can fondly recall nights curled up in bed or on the couch under a blanket, reading to your daughter as she first discovered board books. Was Good Night Moon a favorite bedtime story for your daughter? Or was she more of a Where The Wild Things Are fan? And as they got a little bit older and chapter books came into play, did you read aloud nightly from classics such as Little House on the Prairie or James and the Giant Peach? I see our young ladies in the halls today, carrying novels with them, novels that we are not currently teaching in any of our English classes and that fills me with joy. I am still lucky enough to have that little one to read to each night and although I dread the book choices some evening (I am NOT a Peppa Pig fan…book or TV show), other nights I dedicate to chapter books (currently on the bedside table is Beezus and Ramona) and it is my hope that this habit of reading together daily will inspire a love of reading that will carry far into the future. (So far, I have observed that math comes easier for my daughter; a source of sadness for this English major mommy!)
And I put this question to the moms and dads of the girls of SDA; now that they have been given the gift of reading, the ability for years now to read on their own, do you miss those “read aloud” days where you watched their smiling faces as you recounted the tales between the covers of a beloved childhood book? I do get to see some of those smiling faces still, when it comes to reading for pleasure; we have implemented a Book Club here at SDA this year and I am the moderator. We meet every 6-8 weeks and I am always pleased, both with the turnout and with the level of discussion I observe amongst the young ladies who attend. It’s very informal, some snacks, some talking, and some laughs (or tears) about the book. Different students choose to attend at different times, depending on what is being read and the books selected vary greatly in plot and theme. I am so glad this club has come into existence this year! (Thanks Francesca and Margaret!)
As I think about what books I would love for SDA Book Club to read, it occurs to me over and over again that there is just not enough time in the year or hours in the day or days in the week for students to read every book that some of us adults consider wonderful, inspiring, or even difficult but necessary reads. And I think to myself, wouldn’t it be wonderful if as parents, you with your daughters and me with mine, could continue that tradition of “story time” together.
So, regardless of whether your daughter is an avid reader or you fear that text messages are all she reads these days, I have three suggestions for some books that parents and daughters may truly enjoy reading together this spring! The few I suggest will all leave a lasting impression and will teach an important lesson as well.
- Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. Lucy Grealy was nine years old when she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, an almost always terminal cancer that she managed to beat and survive. However, her survival came with quite a price, the removal of a third of her jaw, which left her disfigured for most of her school years. Here, Grealy tells openly and honestly of her experiences, not only with cancer, but with the never ending teasing she faced at the hands of her classmates for most of her life. This book will wipe out any thoughts of bullying your teen may have entertained and is all the more sad for the fact that Grealy killed herself as a young adult.
- At Risk by Alice Hoffman. The story of the Farrell family, mother, father, 8 year old Charlie and 11 year old Amanda, who is on her way to being a world class gymnast. Set in the mid 1980’s, before donated blood was tested, the family faces a harsh tragedy when Amanda is diagnosed with AIDS; a result of a blood transfusion during an appendix operation. This novel, not a story of death, but a story of how a family learns to live, cope, learn and love each other in the face of discrimination is just as timely now as when it was first published.
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. Set in Berlin in 1942, this book tells the story of Bruno, a young German boy whose father has just been placed in charge of Auchwitz. Bruno is too young to understand what is happening in Germany and across the world; all he knows is that he has been moved to a new home with nobody to play with and nothing to occupy his time. Fascinated by a fence that runs the length of his property, he begins to wonder about the people on the other side and why they are always dressed in striped pajamas. Exploring the fence, Bruno makes a new friend on the other side, a friendship that will end badly and break readers hearts.